Archive for the ‘Recommended’ Category

Located in the village of Chichée, just to the southeast of Chablis proper, the Picq family has tended to its small parcels of vines for several generations. Brothers Didier and Pascal quickly established themselves as rigorous growers after taking over this 32-acre domaine from their father, Gilbert, who retired in 1976. Pascal is in charge of the vineyards for the family, while Didier mans the cellar and makes the wine.

The Picq style of Chablis is classic, with the unique expression of minerality that the chardonnay only picks up in these rolling hillside vineyards of the Yonne Valley, coupled with a racy acidity and depth that comes with low yields, meticulous winemaking and fine parcels of vines. Picq is careful to keep yields as low as possible each year, pruning back severely each winter and routinely crop-thinning on two occasions each summer. Starting in 2006, they have converted to 100% natural yeasts for all of their cuvées. All of the Picq Chablis bottlings are fermented and raised in stainless steel tanks to protect the wines’ underlying expressions of terroir.

Domaine Gilbert Picq et Ses Fils offers up a pair of premier crus, both located in the village of Chichée. These include the Vaucoupin (an underrated premier cru in Chablis) and a more powerful, but equally soil-driven premier cru of Vosgros, which is produced from the family’s oldest premier cru vines.

Situated in the commune of Chichée, Vaucoupin is a highly regarded premier cru on the right bank (east side) of the river Serein (all seven of Chablis’ grand crus are on the right bank). The Picq parcel is in the steepest section of the vineyard, on a forty-five degree slope and must be completely tended by hand, including at the all important harvesting time. It is a beautifully situated premier cru, which produces a wine with a lovely chalky, oyster shell base of soil, and notes of spring flowers and beeswax augmenting the lovely tart citrus core of fruit.

Generally speaking, the right bank premier crus usually produce bigger and more powerful wines whereas the left bank produces wines with more of an emphasis on elegance and finesse,” according to Burghound’s Allen Meadows. The 2008 Gilbert Picq Vaucoupin is excellent. Citrus with some honey and buttered popcorn on the nose. Solid minerality, orchard fruit, some tropical notes, oyster shell and oregano on the palate. Full, fleshy and long.

My friend Tim contends that if you couldn’t produce a good Chablis in 2008 that you shouldn’t be in the wine making business. While that might be true, this wine bears more than just the marks of a good vintage. 12.5% alcohol. Imported by Polaner Selections.

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There have been a number of regions/wines in the last few years that have grabbed my attention. The Rhône valley,  Muscadet, Beaujolais and Spain all have been on the short list in the last few years. A couple of years ago I had my first wine from the Jura wine. People will call them nerd wines, claim they are not accessible and an acquired taste. There may be some truth to that, but they are also some of the most distinctive, memorable and intriguing wines available.

After a number of recent Riesling tastings, I decided to offer up a Jura tasting to the group. Last week, we got together at Palena  and my friend Tim and I pulled together a list of wines that included the following:

N.V. Hubert Clavelin Crémant du Jura Brut
2007 Domaine de l’Aigle a Deux Tetes Côtes du Jura En Quattre Vis Vieilles Vigne
2007 Domaine de l’Aigle a Deux Tetes Côtes du Jura Vieilles Vignes en Griffez
2008 Emmanuel Houillon Arbois Pupillin Maison Pierre Overnoy Chardonnay
1993 Emmanuel Houillon Poulsard Arbois Pupillin Maison Pierre Overnoy
2007 Jacques Puffeney Trousseau Arbois Les Berangères
2009 Domaine Ganevat Côtes du Jura Plein Sud
2007 Philippe Bornard Arbois Pupillin L’Ivresse de Noé

The Ganevat seemed to pull the most votes for wine of the night, although the Puffeney and the ’08 Houillon were also outstanding. The nose on the ’93 Houillon is not something I will soon forget — New Jersey turnpike, burning tires, some brett and flatus (eau de ewwww)….it burned off a bit as the night went on. It might not sound appealing,  but I was rather fond of it.  In the glass it looked like a cloudy mix of rose and iced tea. The nose and the appearance led me to believe that it would be tired (if not dead) and not too pleasant, but it was very vibrant and showed quite well.

The nose on the L’Ivresse de Noé was all about fresh apples — really a thing of beauty. I also really liked the wines from L’Aigle a Deux Tetes. I preferred the En Griffez over the En Quatre — it’s had a bit more weight and richness — and might be mistaken for a white Burgundy, though you would be hard pressed to find as good of a white Burgundy for $23.

All of the wines made for a very interesting tasting. There were many wines that were considered — and those that were overlooked may soon have their chance as I am thinking we need to do a Jura night at least a couple of times a year so that people can get their nerd on. Palena was a great pairing as well, love their menu — roast chicken is a great paring for Jura wines, and the roast chicken at Palena might be the best I have had. Jura wines are great food wines. They tend to have good acidity and can be a bit austere, they want (and at times need) food to be enjoyed. In my opinion, they also tend to be some of the best wines to pair with cheese.

It didn’t take long for me to open another bottle of Jura. Last night I opened a Montbourgeau Côtes du Jura, very interesting Poulsard — could not say if it was a red wine or a rosé, but it was really delicious — strawberry and watermelon jolly rancher (tart red fruit that just makes you salivate), really juicy and very accessible.

I can’t say I have completely taken to some of the oxidized whites from Jura, but maybe it is a taste I will acquire. Regardless, these are some of the greatest wines and they deserve a place in your heart and cellar.

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Domaine Gramenon is one of the most respected producers in the Rhône. In his book on the wines of the Rhône valley, Robert Parker classified Gramenon in the same category as Beaucastel and Fonsalette.

In 1998, owner Phillipe Laurent nearly doubled the area of his vineyards by purchasing some 50 acres in Vinsobres. A year later, he died in a tragic accident and his wife decided to sell some 35 acres the Perrin brothers at Beaucastel.

Michelle Aubery-Laurent and her son Maxim-François continue to make wines in a pretty natural way, with sulphur dioxide used just at assemblage. Their vineyards are farmed organically, and they never filter or fine their wines.

Their wines are not very well-known in the United States as they are available on a limited basis, though it seems they are starting to get more attention.  Someone familiar with their wines from years ago recently told me they made some rather odd wines. He had not had any of their wines in a number of years. I poured him some of the 2008s from Domaine Gramenon and he seemed to like them and say these were not the wines that he remembered. I originally found Gramenon’s wines through Kermit Lynch’s newsletter. He described them as a pure expression of biodynamically farmed, old vine fruit with knock-out flavors tempered by a core of strong minerality. My first vintage of the Sierra du Sud was the 2007. I think I paid $28-32 a bottle. The 2009 can be found for about $22 a bottle.

The Sierra du Sud is 100% Syrah, half aged for seven months in old oak. Like the 2007, it is very deep, dark inky ruby in color, with bright aromatics of red and dark fruit and some earth and bubble gum. It explodes in your mouth with black currant, plum and more bubble gum. This is even more approachable than the 2007, perhaps just a bit more ripe as well. The 2008s had a bit of funk and a little more going on — which is not to say I didn’t like the 2008s, as I do consider myself to be pro-funk when it comes to wine. The 2009 might be a bit less complex — just pure, unadulterated fruit — definitely in the quaffable and fun category. 13.5% alcohol. Imported by Kermit Lynch.

More wines from Domaine Gramenon:
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Gramenon Les Laurentides Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Gramenon Côtes du Rhône Blanc Vie on y Est 2008
Domaine Gramenon Ceps Centenaires La Mémé 2000

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Gulfi is a relatively new producer of organic wines — their wines aren’t widely available but worth seeking out. Astor Wines in NY and the Wine Exchange usually have some of their wines in stock.

Gulfi was established in 1996 and current production is about 20,000 cases. It is made from the Sicilian red grape Nero d’Avola. It comes from a limestone-based vineyard around Pachino in the Val di Noto region of Sicily. 8,000 bottles were produced.

This wine still had lots of life and was really showing beautifully. It had softened since I last had it some 4 or 5 years ago. Very approachable and comforting. I thought this was like Barry White in a bottle. It was smooth, soulful and didn’t need anything else to set the mood. I have some 2005s, but think this is the last bottle of the 2000 vintage.

14% alcohol. Imported by Selected Estates of Europe. I also really liked their Carjcanti, a white wine made from Carricante.

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Many have said the 2009 vintage is the best ever for Beaujolais. I’m not going to argue with that having enjoyed just about all of the 09s. Jean-Paul Thévenet and Marcel Lapierre’s wines have been my favorites to date, though each time I have a bottle of Lapierre it seems to distance itself from all others. That said, there are some wines downstairs still to be had — Foillard’s Morgon Cuvée Corcelette Vieille Vigne  and his Morgon Côte du Py, Lapierre’s Morgon Cuvée Marcel and others.

Last night I opened a bottle of the Thibault Liger-Belair Moulin-à-Vent La Roche. The wines from Thévenet and Lapierre show a more feminine side, while this is more masculine. A bit more body and fruit as well as a bit darker, but also focused and soft. I can’t say this appealed to me at the same level as the Thévenet or Lapierre (which isn’t a fair comparison), but it is well made and definitely has a delicious factor. To make it even more impressive, this is the first release since Thibault Liger-Belair bought a piece of property in Beaujolais.

He owns 8 acres in Moulin-à-Vent and the average vine age age is 60 years. He sold-off the grapes in 2008, as Thibault contended it would take more than a year of working with the vines to perform to his desired standard. Thibault is currently transitioning the vineyards to be farmed biodynamically.

The Thibault Liger-Belair domaine is located in Nuits-St.-Georges and has almost 18 acres under vine. The domaine has been in the Liger-Belair family for 250 years, having been passed down through the family for the next 5 generations. In 1982 Xavier Liger-Belair died and the business was sold. That same year Xavier’s son, Vincent Liger-Belair, took over the buildings and restructured the domaine by having three sharecropper winemakers handle the work. Then in 2001, Vincent’s son, Thibault Liger-Belair, took over the vines as the winemaker and created Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair. His wines are imported to the U.S. by Vineyard Brands.

Related posts
Thévenet Morgon Vieilles Vignes 2009
Jean & Agnes Foillard — Morgon Cuvée Corcelette Vieille Vigne 2007
Jean Foillard Morgon Côte du Py 2007

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Juan Antonio Ponce heads up this small family run bodega who began bottling their own wines in 2005, after generations of traditional grape-growing that continues today, with the adoption of biodynamic techniques. The Ponce family has 22 hectares of vineyards in the municipality of Iniesta (in the province of Cuenca).

Only traditional methods are used in the winery. The grapes are vinified separately and each wine is made with grapes from a certain block, each representing a different terroir, with its own personality. All Ponce’s grapes are old vine Bobal, averaging 50, but up to 85 yrs old, and are planted at an altitude of 2,300 feet and higher. Bobal is a variety of Vitis Vinifera, native to the Utiel-Requena region in Valencia. Bobal is the third most planted variety in Spain, but most people are probably not familiar with the varietal.

At Bodegas Ponce, they showcase the diversity of soil of each of the various plots, producing wines with different characters, always with reference to the variety Bobal. There are very few, if any other producers working with Bobal in this manner, and in only a few years Bodegas Ponce has managed to create a serious following of their wines around the globe.

Last month, I had a bottle of their La Casilla, from 30-70 year old Bobal vines and aged 9 months in 300,400 and 1,500 liter French oak vats. Aromatics of dark fruits with violets. On the palate, big and bold with generous amounts of ripe dark fruit, graphite, smoke, bubble gum and toast. I was at Terroir Wine Bar in Tribeca a couple of weeks back. I’ll certainly return, not only because they offered La Casilla by the glass. La Casilla is currently on sale at $15  a bottle at Canal’s Bottle Shop (it retails for about $22 a bottle).

This week I opened Ponce’s La Casilla Estrecha, from 72 year old Bobal vines and aged 9 months in 300 liter French Oak vats. It is reminiscent of the La Casilla, but a bit more depth, complexity and polish.

The wines are imported by C&P Wines. Recommended.

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Domaine Gramenon is one of the most respected producers in the Rhône. In his book on the wines of the Rhône valley, Robert Parker classified Gramenon in the same category as Beaucastel and Fonsalette. In 1998, owner Phillipe Laurent nearly doubled the area of his vineyards by purchasing some 50 acres in Vinsobres. A year later, he died in a tragic accident and his wife decided to sell some 35 acres the Perrin brothers at Beaucastel. Michelle Aubery-Laurent and her son Maxim-François continue making wines in a pretty natural way, with sulphur dioxide used just at assemblage. Their vineyards are farmed organically, and they never filter or fine their wines.

Their wines are not very well known in the United States as they are available on a limited basis. I found Gramenon’s wines through Kermit Lynch’s newsletter. He described them as a pure expression of biodynamically farmed, old vine Grenache with knock-out fruit flavors tempered by a core of strong minerality. Some might not want to pay $30 for a bottle of Côtes du Rhône, but I was able to pick up a sampler pack of their wine from Kermit Lynch at 25% off and each one of the wines has been a winner.

Last year I found some older vintages of Domaine Gramenon at MacArthur Beverages in Washington, DC — including a few bottles of their Ceps Centenaires La Mémé from 2000 and 2001. The Centenaires La Mémé is made from 100 year old Grenache vines. It is fermented with stems and aged without any sulfur dioxide additions. Gramenon’s wines are said to show best in their relative youth, so wasn’t sure what to expect from a bottle from the 2000 vintage. Copper plum in color, definitely showing a some age. Still showing some lush and silky fruit on the palate, though not as bright as the younger Gramenon’s I have had. It’s picked up a lot of complexity and has also softened and mellowed. Not sure I would sit on this much longer, but it was a memorable bottle. Add another notch to why this domaine is on my list of favorites.

Related posts:
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Gramenon Sierra du Sud 2007
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Gramenon Côtes du Rhône Blanc Vie on y Est 2008
Domaine Gramenon Les Laurentides Côtes du Rhône 2007

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I am a big fan of ramen. Years ago, I went to the original Momofuku location and was impressed how they transformed the dish —  the pork, egg and broth stood out for what has to be the best bowl of ramen I have ever had. I have been back a number of times and infortunaely David Chang’s ramen hasn’t reached the same heights, but it is still a treat. I go to Menkui Tei almost every time I go to New York. The regular ramen is good, but the Jar-Jar Ramen is what keeps me coming back again and again…Ippudo is also another favorite (though the noodle is one of the most important elements of the dish, and I find theirs to be a bit ra-meh-n).

All of the mentioned restaurants are in New York, but I now have a favorite place for ramen in Los Angeles — Daikokuya. The food is great and a very good value — plus the fact that it is a bit of a whole in the wall with great service only adds to its charm.

Sliced Roast Pork
Seared kurobuta pork belly chashu with sweet glaze and green onions. You can tell this dish is delicious just by looking at the picture. The pork belly is tender and flavorful — more than enough for a meal for 1 person for only $5.95.

Daikoku Ramen
Tonkotsu (pork bones) soup with our secret blended soy sauce, chijire style egg noodles, kurobuta pork belly chashu, marinated boiled egg, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, green onions and sprinkle of sesame seeds. Ask for the richer, kotteri flavor which uses added soup extracted from the back fat. All 3 of us were in agreement that the broth was richer with better flavor. Really like their ramen noodles — some spring, good thickness and texture…plus a great value at $8.95.

I am not the only fan so beware of long lines. Recommended.

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Langer’s has served more than 4 million pounds of pastrami since its inception. The story begins in 1905, with the arrival at Ellis Island of Harry and Rose Langer, from Odessa, Russia. A tailor by trade, Harry settles with Rose in Newark, New Jersey. They have three children — Joe, Al and Morris.

In 1924, Al, now 11 years old, gets a job at a local delicatessen as a busboy, cleaning tables and assisting the waitresses. The waitresses went home at 8 PM, so Al would wait tables on his own until closing. From age 11 to becoming an adult, Al worked in delicatessens throughout the New York area. It was during this time he perfected his ability to hand-slice pastrami, a “lost art” knifing skill that preserves the juicy flavor and tenderness of the meat during cutting. As a result, Al became a highly sought-after delicatessen counter man.

In 1936, Harry, Rose, Joe and Al Langer relocated to Los Angeles, where new opportunities in tailoring work awaited the head of the family. Al began working at a variety of delicatessens around Boyle Heights in East Los Angeles, then a thriving Jewish community, as well as locations on Hollywood Boulevard. Eventually, Al purchased The Famous Deli, a small delicatessen near the corner of 7th and Alvarado, a mere 12 seats for patrons. This would become the Langer’s Delicatessen.

Time passed and Al’s success grew along with the deli’s. Space became available south of the original location, allowing the restaurant to expand first to 58 seats and by 1968, to 135 seats (the present configuration). During the 1950s and early 1960s that became famous for its delicious pastrami and hot, crispy-crusted rye bread. Al created the #19 — hot pastrami, cole slaw, a slice of Swiss cheese and Russian dressing on hot rye — and it quickly became the deli’s most popular sandwich, a laurel that it holds to this very day. I’m not sure what the prices was back then, but today it is $14.45. This might seem a little expensive if it weren’t for the fact this might be the best sandwich in the United States.

I went to Langer’s a few years ago. I had a cup of the cabbage soup and immediately sensed I was in for a treat. It only got better once they brought me the #19. It was more than memorable — it is my reference point for all other pastrami — and all other sandwiches for that matter. A few years pass, I am back in LA and we decide we must make a trip to Langer’s. I consider ordering something else for fear that the #19 might disappoint. As time passes it is easy to elevate a food experience to something a little more than it was. With time often comes nostalgia — and a memory or experience can become idealized. You try and recreate the experience and so often it disappoints. It’s difficult to know if it is in fact a lesser experience than the original — or if emotions played a part in distorting the memory of the original experience.

It would have been very easy to pick something else, it was 11 am — so breakfast and lunch were an option and like any great deli, Langer’s menu offers many different items in many different combinations. After deliberating, I knew I had to go with the #19 — hot pastrami, cole slaw, a slice of Swiss cheese and Russian dressing on hot rye.

Truth be told, it was better than last time. The bread’s crust was thicker — it was more like a shell than a crust — and of course the pastrami was delicious. My next trip I might just get a pastrami on rye with mustard — I can’t imagine it could get much better than that and the absence of cole slaw, cheese and dressing might be a better format to let the real stars of the sandwich shine. I left knowing that was one of the best sandwiches I have ever had — and perhaps at the very top of the list.

I am not alone in that opinion. Nora Ephron, in her article that appeared in The New Yorker, wrote the following:

The hot pastrami sandwich served at Langer’s Delicatessen in downtown Los Angeles is the finest hot pastrami sandwich in the world.

Ephron goes on to describe the bread (the bread is a key ingredient in the deliciousness of this sandwich):

Today, Langer’s buys its rye bread from a bakery called Fred’s, on South Robertson, which bakes it on bricks until it’s ten minutes from being done. Langer’s bakes the loaf the rest of the way, before slicing it hot for sandwiches. The rye bread, faintly sour, perfumed with caraway seeds, lightly dusted with cornmeal, is as good as any rye bread on the planet, and Langer’s puts about seven ounces of pastrami on it, the proper proportion of meat to bread.

David Sax, author of Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen, had similar praise as posted on JewishJournal.com:

Langers, home of the finest pastrami sandwich in the universe, much less the country…

Langer’s has also received the coveted James Beard Foundation award. David Shaw writing for the James Beard Foundation in commemoration of our America’s Classics award wrote the following:

In Los Angeles, where any business that stays open for more than five years is likely to proclaim itself a “legendary institution,” Langer’s Delicatessen is the real thing. Langer’s is also a living microcosm of the Los Angeles story, from dramatic post-war growth through all the triumphs and tribulations, changes and challenges that have followed.

Opened in 1947 with just 12 seats, almost forced out of business by recession and the urban blight of drugs and gangs in the early 1990s, then rescued by — of all things in Los Angeles, a subway! — Langer’s lives on, serving what many deli aficionados on both coasts consider the best pastrami sandwich in America. Norm Langer started working for his dad, Al, in 1963, and he’s been there virtually every day since. His father, who passed away shortly after the restaurant celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2007 — would come in for a few hours three or four days a week to help out with the lunch rush and greet longtime customers, many of whom recognize the children in the family photos on the walls.

Just west of downtown, in a neighborhood more shabby than chic, on a street corner at Seventh and Alvarado in a heavily Latino area, adjacent to a burgeoning Korea Town, it draws an eclectic and loyal clientele — including at least one Korean businessman who calls Langer’s pastrami “Jewish kimchee.”

All very high and well deserved praise, leaving little doubt that a trip to Langer’s is as memorable as it is delicious. Any survey of the world’s best sandwiches or a visit to Los Angeles is simply not complete without a stop at this landmark deli. Highly recommended.

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Domaine Pierre de la Grange is considered one of the best domaines of the Nantais, a region that marks the most northwestern point of all France’s vineyards. Pierre and his wife Monique are the seventh generation (the family has owned the property for more than 200 years) to run Domaine Pierre de la Grange, though their wines are more likely to be found listed under Luneau-Papin or even Pierre Luneau, than under the estate’s true name. They have approximately 40 hectares of vines, with 38 hectares planted to Melon de Bourgogne and the remaining 2 hectares committed to red varieties. The vineyards are situated in Le Landreau, Vallet and La Chapelle Heulin, about 20 kilometres from Nantes itself. The vines average forty-five years although some are over seventy.

There is a broad and varied range of cuvées produced at Luneau-Papin, which in many cases reflect vineyard or terroir of origin. The leading cuvées are the L d’Or (a weighty expression of Melon de Bourgogne) and the Semper Excelsior Clos des Noëlles.

L d’Or is sourced from vines more than 45 years old grown on granite and mica terroirs in Vallet, one of the Sèvre et Maine communes. The vines are cared for along the lines of lutte raisonnée, and are nourished with just a little organic manure. The fruit is harvested by hand, pressed using pneumatic equipment, and the juice is then allowed to settle before a four week temperature-controlled fermentation by indigenous yeasts, regulated to 20ºC. There is also a warmer macération pelliculaire, a period of skin contact, at 30ºC. The wine is then stored sur lie for nine months before bottling.

The nose is a bit reserved with some citrus, mineral and floral notes. It’s a bit more revealing on the palate. Stony minerality with citrus, orchard fruit and some creamy almond notes. Rich and broad, good acidity and complexity.  A great example of what some age can do with Muscadet — and I wouldn’t hesitate to sit on this for another 5-7 years (or more). Recommended and an outstanding value at $22 a bottle. 12% alcohol. Imported by Louis/Dressner.

Related posts:
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Le L d’Or 2005
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Excelsior 2005
Pepiere Muscadet Sevre et Maine “3″ 2005
Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Granite de Clisson 2007
Domaine de la Pépière “Vieilles Vignes” Clos des Briords Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2007
Michel Brégeon Muscadet Sevre et Maine 2002

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Marie and Marcel run Domaine Richaud, with Marcel as winemaker and Marie as manager. Marcel makes some wonderful wines, mostly of the little known village appellation Cairanne. Many consider him one of the top 2 or 3 producers in the appellation. His estate is made up of plots inherited from his parents as well as rented parcels, so some grapes are sold to the local co-op or to négociants. The wines are made in the vineyard by pruning short, never using synthetic fertilizers, keeping the average age of the vines over 25 years old and keeping yields low. His wines are made in large capacity cement vats, each varietal is vinified separately and blended some 8 months later. The wines are not frequently racked and are not fined or filtered.

Richaud’s wines are said to be very popular in France, selling out almost immediately after release. I have read that sales at the estate’s tasting room account for the majority of all sales (though I find that difficult to believe).  On a trip to Paris last September, we went to dinner at Le Gorille Blanc on our first night. They had Richaud’s ’07 Galets by the glass. I took that as a sign that it would be a great meal — and it was (a wine list can often tell you a great deal about a restaurant).

In the United States, it takes a little bit of work to find his wines. Chambers Street in New York is one of the best bets (they currently offer the ’05 l’Ebrescade and the ’08 Galets) or K&L on the left coast, but I have also been pleasantly surprised to find some of his wine at Arrowine in Northern Virginia. Recently, I was very pleased to see Richaud’s ’06 Cairanne at Ripple in DC (and reasonably priced at $40 and change a bottle).

The 2007 Cairanne is a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Carignan. 70% is aged in cement tanks, the rest in barriques, some of them new. Deep, dark purple in color. Aromatics of black cherry, violet and some garrigue. Ripe, juicy dark fruit on the palate. Velvety, but with a bit of chew. A wee bit of a brawler this one, weighing in at 15% alcohol. Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections. Recommended, though if memory serves I slightly prefer the ’06…

Other wines from Domaine Richaud:
Domaine Richaud l’Ebrescade 2005
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Terres de Galets 2007
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne 2006

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Muscadet is produced at the western end of the Loire Valley, near the city of Nantes in the Pays de la Loire region neighboring the Brittany  Region. More Muscadet is produced than any other Loire wine. The Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine sub-appellation is the most productive and notable region of Muscadet, producing more than three quarters of the region’s entire production. In fact, more AOC Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine is produced on a yearly basis than in any other single AOC in the entire Loire Valley.

It is made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape, often referred to simply as melon. The grape variety used to produced Muscadet, Melon de Bourgogne, is a relatively neutral grape. Winemaking techniques have involved in the region to adapt to the grape’s limitation and bring out more flavor and complexity. The most well known of these techniques is sur lie aging, where the wine stays in contact with the dead yeast cells left over after fermentation (the lees).  The technique was discovered, almost accidentally, in the early 20th century. Traditionally Muscadet producers would set aside a barrel of wine for special occasions, such as a family wedding. This “honeymoon barrel”, as it became known, would take on more flavor and texture due to it contact with the lees.  Through this process, autolysis occurs which contributes to a creamy mouthfeel that may the wine seem to have a fuller body. The release of enzymes during this process inhibits oxidation is also said to improve the aging potential of the wine.  During this process, the wine is usually not racked for several months. While in many wines, the lack of racking could have the undesired consequences of developing off flavors or other wine faults. However, the relative neutrality of the Melon de Bourgogne grape works in the favor of the Muscadet wine and poses minimal risk to developing off flavors.

Many top producers have been experimenting more and more with sur lie aging. Top producers like Marc Ollivier, Pierre Lunea-Papin, André-Michel Brégeon, and others are making great wines that showcase specific terroirs within Muscadet, and often involve lees aging for longer periods than are allowed under the appellation rules. In this case, Bregeon’s Muscadet Sevre et Maine 2002  spent 85 months (over 7 years) on its lees before bottling. Michel first began experimenting with extended aging sur lie in 1982 and bottled his first wine using this technique in 1985. The results provide further evidence that Melon de Bourgogne is a noble grape.

I opened this bottle with some rather high expectations as Kermit Lynch wrote this is the most exciting Muscadet you will ever taste. I tasted this side by side with the Pepiere Muscadet Sevre et Maine “3″ 2005. Both wines are outstanding and deserve time in the cellar, but I have to say that I would give the edge to Marc Olivier’s “3” — of course that is my own subjective opinion, that said both wines are worth seeking out. They also offer tremendous value (in this case a that spent over 7 years on its lees for around $20).

Highly recommended. 12% alcohol. Imported by Kermit Lynch.

Related posts:
Pepiere Muscadet Sevre et Maine “3″ 2005
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In the early 1980s, Marc Olivier (an engineer at the time) decided to move to the country for a slower pace of life. His father owned some vineyards in the cool Atlantic-influenced zone of Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine but was not a winemaker. He took over his father’s vineyards and bought a parcel called Clos de Briords from a neighbor. Marc’s first vintage was 1985 and his primary goal as a winemaker at the time was to simply complete fermentation. As such, he began fermentation using cultured yeasts and finished the wine off with a dose of SO2.

As he matured as a winemaker, he experimented with ambient yeasts and began bottling with minimal amounts of SO2. The results were extraordinary; the wines showed greater depth, richness and complexity. Encouraged by his success, Marc began transitioning all his vineyards to organic and continued his minimalist approach in the winery. His wines have since become the benchmark for the region and have exposed a world of previously unknown potential in the area.

Marc Ollivier’s wines are the antithesis of a modern commercial “product.” He hand harvests (a rarity in the region). Ripening is slower, and the longer hang-time before harvest allows for optimal maturity. He only uses natural indigenous yeasts to start fermentation. The vinification techniques are traditional for the area: no skin maceration but direct pressing within 2 hours of picking, racking of the must after 12 hours to remove the solid matter, and controlled temperatures, not to exceed 71.6 degrees F, for the fermentation. He never uses sterile filtration, only permitting one light filtration prior to bottling.

He is the only grower in the whole region to not have a single clonal selection in his vineyards. Over the last century grape growers have lost a huge proportion of the plant diversity in their fields. It’s a rare treat to be able to buy wine from a grower that still has all original genetic stock in his vines. The virtues of Ollivier are reflected in his wines, they are some of the finest expressions of Muscadet, not to mention that they are also a tremendous value given their caliber.

The grapes for the Pepiere “3” come from the same parcel as the famous “Granite de Clisson” bottling and have spent three years on the lees and an additional 1.5 years in the bottle, making it rounder on the palate. This is a new release from Marc Ollivier, the wine was a vat of 100 hectolitres, 80% from designated “Granite de Clisson” vines and 20% from old vines in the Pepiere vineyard (also on Clisson granite).

Rich, supple and broad on the palate. Pronounced acidity —  balanced with some fat and richness. Citrus, with saline, a little tropical fruit and loaded with minerality. 12% alcohol.  Imported by Louis Dressner. Highly recommended.

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Peter Weygandt of Weygandt Selections and Weygandt-Metzler, met Jesse Skiles of Fausse Piste at Hospice du Rhone 2009. This summer, Fausse Piste wines found their way to the shelves at Weygandt Wines in Washington, DC. Fausse Piste produces very limited quantities of stellar Rhone-style reds and whites from small, well-placed vineyards in the Yakima Valley and Walla Walla areas of Washington State, and Amaranth Ridge in Oregon.

Peter Weygandt wasn’t the only one to take notice of Fausse Piste at Hospice du Rhone. Gang of Pour was also impressed and had the following to say: “Perhaps the most unforgettable example of Viognier comes from newbie Fausse Piste; both new to the event and new winemaker from Oregon. If ever a wine expresses the purity of Viognier fruit, the ’08 C’est la Viognier, Outlook Vineyard Find this wine in Yakima Valley does. Fermented one half in barrel and one half in tank, the wine retains a lively crispness, while showing white peach, lemon grass, anise and cream flavors. If this is not the finest Viognier of the show, it is certainly in the top five.”

In 2009, the Yakima Valley had one of the warmest vintages in quite some time. A perfect spring rolled in to unusually hot summer, which was lucky, given an early frost across much of the state on October 11th.  The heat seemed to have less impact on Rhone Varietals as on  wines based on Bordeaux varietals. Harvested on September 14th at 25.8 Brix with unusually high acid and a ph of 3.6 the Viognier was ripe, but also well-balanced due to low yields of 2.4 tons per acre.

Handpicked then chilled at the winery overnight, following Hand sorting and then pressed whole cluster over a long and delicate press run.  Settled overnight in tank then fermented in equal parts neutral French Oak, Stainless steel 75 gallon drums and a Concrete “egg” from Numblot in France using a combination of native and yeast isolated from the Rhone Valley. After weekly battonage and a long cool fermentation, the wine is not allowed to undergo Malolactic fermentation. Lightly fined using bentonite, minimally sulphered and filtered sterile in a single pass through a plate and frame and bottled on March 19th 2010, then released May 1st 2010.

On the nose, mineral notes with stone fruit, honeydew with a little saline and lemon oil. On the palate, more stone fruit with green apple, citrus, some beeswax and thyme. Good steely minerality with crisp acidity. This would be interesting to pour blind and see if it was a ringer as a New World wine, I’m not sure I would have been able to place it. Certainly not your extra rich, creamy and overoaked style of Viognier. I really enjoyed this bottle and was even more impressed with it on the second day. 163 cases produced. 14.1% alcohol. Recommended and a fairly decent value at $21 a bottle.

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